So you’re thinking about becoming a foster parent? Here are 10 things to consider. We’ll look at five here and the final five in part two.
What is your motivation for becoming a foster parent? Is it to care for children experiencing hardship or is it a path to adoption? Foster care is by it’s very nature temporary. Because of this, foster parents play and active role in shared parenting and the work toward the primary goal, which is at first, always reunification.
If that’s not your appetite, many agencies will license you as a pre-adoptive home to accept children legally free for adoption. Now, there’s a belief in some circles that becoming a foster parent with the intention to adopt is bad. I respectfully disagree. Adopting is expensive, prohibitively more so than rearing a child in some cases. And, foster children that aren’t able to reunify deserve a forever family. If you go this route, you have to be prepared to love and let go many times before a forever child arrives.
Foster care will upend your family’s normal rhythms and routines. It will impact every aspect of your life, including your biological children, your job, your finances and your relationships. Are you ready? Do you have a magazine-worthy view of your home in your mind? Is there a song in your heart and a smile on your face when you think about the perfection of foster care? This might not be for you, then.
Remember that children are not removed from wholesome, happy, safe homes. Your child will likely have some level of trauma. Emotional, physical and sexual abuse are common. Sometimes, children come into care for neglect. This means they might not know basic hygiene or be very delayed from their biological age. You’ve got to be ready with lots of love, lots of flexibility, lots of grace and the ability to advocate for their best interests. This includes welcoming caregivers into your home and taking your child to lots and lots of appointments.
You will need a strong support system. You will also need to know where your friends and family stand. We’re blessed with a large network of friends and family that are willing to jump in and support us. But, we also know where the boundaries are with people that don’t want to participate. And, sadly, we’ve ended friendships/relationships with people that aren’t compatible to our choice of foster care. The most important thing is to make sure that you have support before beginning the journey. Share what you’re learning during training- the good and the challenging.
Earlier I mentioned that children in foster care have experienced tough things. Many times these are so intense that they would be hard for an adult to process. Imagine being young, how would you react. Unfortunately, for many kids, that processing comes out through behaviors. Sometimes through odd actions, through regression, through anger and in rare cases, dangerous actions.
Can you teach an eight year old to eat with a fork — for the first time? Can you walk a teenage placement with the “talk.” What about work with a six year old who regresses to age two in stressful situations? Are you patient enough to wait out wailing when a child doesn’t get their way. Do you know when it’s time to say this is dangerous and call for help? One of the things that has changed about me the most is my ability to slow down and flow with whatever happens.
One of the things that has changed about me the most is my ability to slow down and flow with whatever happens.Tweet
Children in care need loving caregivers, but also ones that won’t shy away from extending the bear claws when needed. Why? Children experiencing foster care are emotionally, physically and spiritually beaten to a pulp in many ways. As the foster parent, you’re often their only true advocate.
When there is a conflict in the system- you become the diplomat When someone seeks to demean them- you’re the attack dog. When the nosy person asks too many questions- you’re their protector. When they need extra services or therapies- you’re the advocate. We don’t like conflict, but sometimes, you have to find your inner Karen and speak to the manager. It’s gonna take fortitude. Do you have it?
What do you think about the issues above? Tell me in the comments below.